Thousands of cars are stolen with a USB cable. Blame it on a TikTok video

Mpho Mojapelo / Unsplash

Hundreds of thousands of Kia and Hyundai cars are stolen with a simple USB cable in the United States. Blame it on a TikTok video.

The United States has experienced an unprecedented increase in car thefts in several cities over the past two years. This sudden increase is associated with a video that “went viral” on TikTok.

The video “Kia Challenge”, which first appeared in 2021 and returned to the spotlight in July 2022, showed how to easily steal certain vehicle models Kia and Hyundai using only one USB cable.

TikTok acted quickly, removing it from its platform every time someone posts it. However, it wasn’t fast enough, as evidenced by stolen vehicle figures in some North American cities.

According to Business Insider, 70% of cars stolen in Milwaukee last year and 50% of cars stolen in Chicago this year were from the two South Korean automakers.

The situation became so critical that the two major auto insurance companies, State Farm and Progressive, they no longer cover vulnerable models from Kia and Hyundai. At the same time, dozens of class-action lawsuits filed across the country are trying to get brands to recall vehicles or fix the cars’ vulnerability.

The defect in question affects Kia models from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021. These cars do not have electronic immobilizer systems, a security device that uses a unique chip in the car key. Without this technology, anyone could unscrew the steering column and insert a USB into the ignition.

Since the crackdown began, Kia has added immobilizers to its 2022 models, and Hyundai has added them to cars built from November 2021. Both Kia and Hyundai have also rolled out a free anti-theft software update.

However, many are wondering why the two manufacturers haven’t had this system in their cars for longer. In 2015, 96% of other manufacturers’ vehicles had the technology, as opposed to only 26% of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

Fortunately, electronic immobilizers are common in Europe since the late 90s, when the European Union determined that all new cars sold there had to have this system.

“What really happened is that Kia and Hyundai chose to reduce costs on their cheapest models over a period of years,” attorney Ann Davison told Business Insider.

Daniel Costa, ZAP //

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